NFL news of October 17, 2002

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is expected to send a stern memo to all 32 National Football League teams today, warning them that Terrell Owens‘s behavior on ”Monday Night Football,” and anything like it, will not be tolerated.

Tagliabue is reacting to Owens’s bizarre end-zone celebration after he scored the winning touchdown in San Francisco’s 28-21 victory over Seattle. With the 49ers trailing by 21-20 midway through the fourth quarter, Owens outleaped Seattle cornerback Shawn Springs for a 37-yard touchdown pass. Then the show began.

Owens pulled a Sharpie pen out of his sock, signed the football and handed it to a man sitting in a field-level luxury box in the end zone. Springs and Owens are good friends, and the spectator was the financial consultant for both.

Tagliabue attended the game and was probably as bewildered as everyone who was watching on national television. A league official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that the primary issue of the Owens celebration was perception: the act was perceived by some as taunting and, the official said, it was extraneous to the game.

But that’s the point. Most of what is attached to the N.F.L. is extraneous to the game, beginning with scantily clad cheerleaders. Once again, the N.F.L. is trying to have its cake and eat it, too.

Players can spike the ball, but not at anyone; players can hurtle into the stands, be hugged and swarmed by fans, but they can’t hand them an autographed ball.

— William C. Rhoden, The New York Times “The N.F.L.’s New Twist On Fun”

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